How Blagojevich’s wife, daughters are holding up with retrial starting
By Lark Turner Chicago Sun-Times April 25, 2011 5:49PM
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Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Rod Blagojevich’s family life might be as complicated as the charges against him.
A public falling-out with his father-in-law. A strained relationship with his brother. Two kids who might see their father imprisoned for years. And through it all, his wife, Patti, with whom he even shares space in the government’s case against him.
As the former governor’s retrial kicks off, with jury selection set to finish this week, Blagojevich said his family is dealing with its problems on a day-to-day basis.
The Blagojevich home is full of signs that two children live there: a Barbie doll by the door, the practice books stacked atop the piano. Blagojevich, who admitted to having moments of fear this week, said he feels especially protective toward his daughters as potential prison time looms, perhaps because they’re girls — a statement that draws an exasperated sigh from his wife.
“I’m a dad, and you know, maybe it’d be different if I had boys, I don’t know,” he said. “You want to protect your sons, too, but somehow they’re girls and I feel like I should be here to be able to protect my children.”
Amy, 14, and Annie, 8, are well aware of what’s going on with their dad, he said; “there was no hiding” the allegations against him with media camped outside the family’s Ravenswood Manor home after his arrest. Amy, a high school freshman, was frustrated when the retrial was delayed until April; she “just wants it over with,” her mother said.
Even his daughters aren’t spared Blagojevich’s frequent criticisms of government. Rod Blagojevich said he’s told them about the “cruel blow” he’s been dealt, and wants them to learn from it.
“With Amy, you know, it’s ‘I’m in a rough-and-tumble business in politics, I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, and I feel a real sense of accomplishment on some of the real things I was able to do for real, ordinary people,’ ” he said, adding that he’s told her about his All Kids program and free transit for seniors. “And, you know, Daddy likes to read history books, and sometimes things happen like this.”
In the extended family, Blagojevich said he’s mending things with his once-estranged father-in-law, powerful Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), who skipped the governor’s party on the eve of his re-election in 2006. But this year, Mell spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with the family, and Patti Blagojevich said he showed up for one of his granddaughters’ birthday parties this month.
She said her father, who some say kicked off the feds’ investigation of her husband after a public dispute over a landfill, regrets any role he might have played. She said she thinks he would “take it back in a minute” if he could.
Still, Rod Blagojevich says his relationship with Mell remains “complicated,” adding that Mell’s been supportive of Patti, who was mentioned in court documents charging her husband with corruption but was never charged with wrongdoing.
“He’s been extremely determined to help Patti as much as he can, and certainly I think he’d be willing to help me,” he says, pausing. “I don’t feel like I . . . I don’t feel like I can ask, I don’t feel . . . it’s just not the nature of the relationship.”
Blagojevich said taking a job hasn’t been an option, given the pending charges against him, though he’s been working on his case; in the meantime, Patti works to support the family.
Skirting a question about whether he’s been doing more chores around the house, the former governor said his favorite part of the day is picking up Amy from school after her soccer practice.
“I love that. I love seeing her walk from that school of hers,” he said during a 2½-hour interview with the Sun-Times. “We have this little time together where she’ll talk real fast about all the stuff at school and her world and all these things that are so dramatic in her life.”
But the rest of the day can be difficult.
“A typical day, to me?” he asks. “I feel a sense of — a certain, when you have a certain expectation — it hits me like a sense of profound disappointment. Maybe profound’s too strong a word.”
“Yeah,” interjects Patti, checking another one of her famously chatty husband’s statements. “Too strong.”